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Boumelha argues "the possiblity of a number of ideologies that may stand in contradiction or even conflict with one another." For instance, in Return of the Native these contradictions are represented by three women. With later novels such as Tess and Jude the contradictions and conflicts are embodied in one woman. "How complex and contradictory Tess is" has been pointed up by other critics as well as Boumelha. For her, though, Tess is indicative of Hardy's "radicalism": in a text that is only illusively cohesive in "its single-minded concentration on the figure of Tess," Tess is, ironically, the cohesive element. The discontinuity of the narrative reflects Tess's sexual ideology. Tess gives proof, in fact, to Boumelha's major thesis. There is an equation between narrative form and sexual ideology. However, it is paradoxically a disjunctive one in which the narrative form of tragedy begins to disintegrate at the same time that the narrative assumes an androgyny that changes the pattern of sexual ideology. Tess's tragedy, though, remains one of sexuality. Not so with Sue Bridehead, Boumelha says. Heretofore Hardy's tragedies beginning with Return of the Native have set a pattern in which the "man's tragedy is primarily intellectual, the woman's sexual." Sue upsets that pattern in Hardy's tragedies by breaking out of—at least momentarily—the sexual ideology and even upsets the order of Hardy's quasi chain of being. With Sue's resistance, Hardy's writing of tragedy ends. The equating of sexual ideology and narrative form cannot be infinite both because Sue resists the pattern and because she "is progressively reduced by a challenging articulacy to a tense and painful silence." Hardy's fiction likewise is silenced, Boumelha concludes. Forceful in its scholarly analysis and refreshingly original in its approach to Hardy's fiction, Boumelha's book deserves critical attention. That it is at times contradictory—on the one hand saying that Hardy's personal views will be elided but on the other letting those views creep in at times as examples to support the thesis—does not get in the way of her argument. The substantive merit of this book, then, is not negated by the fact that the equation of sexual ideology and narrative form is only implied at times. Alice Conger Patterson Hofstra University 9. THE STATE OF THE ART IN GISSING STUDIES John Halperin. Gissing: A Life in Books Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982. $29.95 If Gissing is a great novelist, then Gissing: A Life in Books by John Halperin is a great biography. Certainly Halperin thinks that his subject is, and calls a good number of Gissing's books "great": Demos, New Grub Street, In the Year of Jubilee, Sleeping Fires (a "masterpiece"), The Paying Guest, The Whirlpool, By the Ionian Sea, Will Warburton ("one of his very greatest novels, another in the long list of neglected masterpieces"), and perhaps others I have missed. I wonder how many readers of this review have read, I hesitate to say heard of, all eight just listed? How many have read two? In a fascinating appendix, "Some Notes on the Gissing Revival," Halperin says, and proves, that "With the exception of Hardy, no other Victorian novelist has been reprinted so prodigiously since 1968." But, despite reprints, Gissing is scarcely a household word; In an imaginary—highly imaginary—literate household today, at least four of Hardy's novels, one or more 216 of Moore's, Stevenson's, Kipling's, Wilde's, even Gosse's and others of Gissing's late Victorian contemporaries would be much better known. As would, among earlier Victorians, all of Dickens: no one has written more interestingly on Dickens than Gissing himself, and no one has written more interestingly on the similarities between Gissing and Dickens than Halperin himself. But what a vast gulf is fixed between Demos and David Copperfield. Gissing lacks the mythic imagination of a great novelist like Dickens; he is too gloomy, he does not delight, as even Dickens ' or Zola's squalor and crime can delight; his style is often awkward, probably because he always rewrote from scratch rather than polished; with all his love and knowledge of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 216-217
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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